high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Going far afield due to icy conditions

Note posted on the gas pump at a BP gas station:

If it seems like your gas is pumping slow, follow these steps:
  1. Stop pumping for 15 seconds
  2. Start pumping again
  3. You will see that it is okay
This is what you could call a "fail proof" set of directions.  What, gas not pumping quick enough?  Well, did you stop pumping for 15 seconds?  Yes?  Okay, well did you start pumpi...okay okay, I'm not trying to insult your intelligence.  But did you follow step number 3?  What do you mean it's still not pumping quickly enough?  If you just follow the simple instructions then it will work properly.  First you stop pumping, then you start pumping again, and then you'll see that it's okay.  If it doesn't seem to be working, just try following the three steps again, because they really should take care of the problem.  What do you mean you don't see that it's okay?  Did you follow the directions?  

The stop at a gas station was made necessary by a car trip up to Austintown over the weekend to see one of Mom's paintings that was chosen for a show at the art museum in Youngstown.  All in all it was a nice short weekend sojourn, complete with an exhilirating episode of having the car spin around while driving on slick roads at 65 miles per hour down the highway and landing in a snowy ditch.  The route up 71 and across 76 has never been my favorite, and this just added to my dislike for the drive.  A much preferred route was the one taken when Mom and Dad still lived in East Liverpool.  Although driving on 70 East across the middle of Ohio was nothing great, it was infinitely more scenic than 71, and the ride up the Ohio River on 7 was far superior to the boredom of 76.  

Aside from the highway driving, going back to East Liverpool was preferable for three primary reasons:
  1. The Young Mens' Christian Association downtown
  2. Topography
  3. You will see that it is okay  
Haha, that third item is a joke.  The real number 3 is "the availability of places to run around East Liverpool."  Let's look at each of these items in turn:

The Young Mens' Christian Association downtown: The Y downtown was classic, and if East Liverpool was the general setting for my years of growing up, the Y was like the micro-setting for those years.  If I wasn't at home or at school, there was a good chance I was at the Y.  First it was swimming lessons.  Then it was church league basketball.  Then it was pickup basketball.  Then it was just shooting hoops for hours.  Maybe some running on the slanted track around the top of the basketball court that was such a terrible surface it gave you blisters on your feet right through your shoes.  And lifting weights, more lifting weights, and more lifting weights.  

One machine in particular at the Y reflected the out-datedness of the equipment there.  It was called the Wat Neck machine, and as you might expect, it was designed to strengthen your neck.  In general, the neck is probably not the most worked-out area of the body among weightlifters.  I've never heard of a guy saying "I'm going to the beach in a few months.  If I want to look good with my shirt off I'd better start working out my neck."  Likewise, I've never heard a young female exclaim "Oooh, look at the neck on that guy!"  It's not that the neck isn't important, it's just that an extremely muscular neck doesn't project alpha male status in quite the same way as huge biceps or a broad chest.  Anyway, the Wat Neck was not an out-dated piece of equipment by virtue of the body part it focused on, but rather because of its design.  Basically someone using the Wat Neck would plant their face between two pads, press their head forward, slowly return to the starting position, and repeat.  A simple exercise to be sure, but one that you really, really want to do with proper form.  

I only ever saw one person using the Wat Neck: a massive guy named Brent who benched something like 500+ pounds and talked about professional wrestling quite a lot.  He was clearly the alpha male at the Y, without significant challengers.  My first encounter with Brent was one summer day when I was down on the basketball court, shooting hoops, when suddenly I heard some roaring coming from the weight room upstairs.  I wasn't quite sure what to think of this at first, because the other guys who lifted at the Y weren't especially vocal, and this went way beyond the basic exhalations that are common when lifting weights.  This was like primal, eat your children, professional wrestling-style screaming.  In retrospect, I realize that Brent was just establishing himself as alpha male on his first trip to the Y, because in all subsequent encounters he was a bit more tame.

Anyway, Brent was overheard to say one time that he loved the Wat Neck (probably when there were discussions about getting rid of it), and could occasionally be seen with cheeks firmly planted between the pads, pressing his head forward and slowly returning it to the starting position.  Neither Nate nor I ever figured out why is was the "Wat Neck" machine rather than having a more standard and descriptive label like "Neck Press."  In fact, we never even really discussed the matter.  Wat Neck just seemed appropriate.

Good old Wat Neck.  You always were, and you always will be.

Topography: East Liverpool is a town of hills.  If a study were ever done to find out how fast brakes wear out in cars in certain places, East Liverpool would have to be near the top, if not leading the pack.  Why do hills hold any appeal, you ask?  Well, hills have a variety of advantages to them.  First, there is the common wintertime activity of sledding.  I have seen kids in Columbus on numerous occasions trying to "sled" at Antrim Park.  The "sledding hill" at Antrim is nothing more than an embankment about 10 yards from top to bottom at the edge of the parking lot.  And it's not that the kids (or their parents) simply didn't bother to look to find a better spot.  They probably looked extensively, and the Antrim parking lot embankment was truly the best option.  This is sad, and I shed an imaginary tear for those children as I write this.

In East Liverpool, you can choose from any number of great hills, with cool names like Raptor, Mean Streak, and Millenium Force.  Haha, those names are a joke.  But it is not a joke to say that there are some legitimate sledding hills in East Liverpool.  And the advantages of hills don't end there!  A second reason why hills are a desirable feature is because young children in hilly areas have been shown in repeated studies to have a vastly superior grasp of physics than children from non-hilly areas.  The naturally occurring daily lessons concerning the laws of gravity (yes, laws plural!) are a source of competitive advantage for hill-bred children as they come in contact with flatland children later in life.  

A bottle kiln, but not THE bottle kiln
A third and final reason why hills are so great is because they allow the town to serve as a valuable point of reference for the surrounding areas.  We've all seen (or if you haven't seen, you need to get on it) the way that they lit the beacons on all the high points in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and in similar fashion East Liverpool is well-prepared to serve this important role.  Obviously the town doesn't rely on a pile of sticks and a torch.  That only works in fantasy movies.  In real life, East Liverpool makes use of one of its traditional bottle kilns.  Usually the bottle kilns are dedicated to baking clay pots, but there is one bottle kiln, at the highest point in East Liverpool, that is reserved for the sole purpose of signaling to the surrounding areas.  It is manned day and night by a Gandalf lookalike, who by law is obligated to say "Hope is kindled" if the kiln should ever need to be fired.  

The availability of places to run: Perhaps the best part about East Liverpool is that there are lots of places to go for a run.  There are interesting neighborhoods, Thompson Park, the track at the high school, St. Clair Avenue, and Riverview Cemetery, just to name a few.  In the years of training for cross country the miles in these familiar spots were covered over and over, but they never really seemed boring.  The previously mentioned hills of East Liverpool provided great strength and conditioning, and the available surfaces ranged from pavement to dirt trails.   

Here in Columbus there are lots of good places to run, but many of them force you onto pavement.  While a city is more interesting than a small town in many ways, running around the city is not as enjoyable, probably because you don't typically see people that you know while running, and the buildings downtown won't change the same way that the houses and yards in a neighborhood can change day to day.  No doubt a great marathon course could be charted through East Liverpool, and if organizing such a race it would be key to attract as many runners by establishing a reputation for having a well-run (indeed!) event.  Some things to consider in any road race are the following:

Donatello holding a WTI canister (the name was changed
to TCRI for purposes of the movie).
Sponsors: Typically there is one major sponsor for a marathon, and usually it is one of the most prominent organizations in the area.  In East Liverpool, the first organization that comes to mind is WTI, the local toxic waste incinerator.  WTI was a hotly debated topic for some time in East Liverpool, and may still be, mainly because of the concerns arising from incinerating toxic waste in a community of people.  However, WTI is a major employer, something sorely needed in the area.  Also, how can you really be that negative about something that brought us the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

Prizes: Many major marathons offer a sizable cash prize to the winner, but in East Liverpool, something far more valuable than cash can be given, and that is a gift certificate to the Sparkle Market in East End.  Sparkle Market was my first employer, and the place where I learned the valuable life skills of rotating stock and blocking shelves.  Blocking shelves refers to the practice of bringing products to the front of the shelves to make the shelves appear more full and aesthetically appealing, not the act of purposefully preventing shoppers from selecting items for purchase.  That is just poor customer service.  Blocking shelves is most common with canned goods or boxed items, but you can really do it with any item - gallons of milk, bags of potato chips, produce, etc.  The marathon runner won't find their beloved Powerbars at Sparkle, because it just isn't that kind of place, but they do have an excellent meat department, and 25-cent cans of Fanta in the machine outside.

Ready, Schet, GO!
Figureheads: Every good marathon has to have a notable figure to fire the starting gun.  As the East Liverpool Marathon grows in popularity we'll start to shoot for some big names without hometown connections (Sean Connery, President Obama, RL Stine), but for the first year we'll go with our most famous local hero, Lou Holtz.  Lou and I went to the same Catholic preschool (St. Aloysius), and both liked to be called "Coach."  No doubt the runners would be greatly inspired to see the classic college football figure firing the gun to send them on their way.

Swag: Marathoners always are interested to see what kind of goodies they'll get in the packet they pick up at the registration tables.  Common items include t-shirts, coupons, Powerbars, and chap stick.  We've already established that Powerbars are hard to come by in East Liverpool, and t-shirts are too generic, so instead the swag bag will contain just one item (and a far superior one, to say the least): a piece of pottery courtesy of Homer Laughlin China.  If you weren't aware, East Liverpool was once the Pottery Capital of the World (this is actually not a joke), and although the number of potteries has greatly diminished over time, there are still several active potteries around town, and the most well-known is Homer Laughlin.  The specific item of pottery is not important, because all that matters is that the runners can take away something characteristic of the town.  You may say that pottery doesn't even have anything to do with running, but in response I would say that nobody likes a person who whines about their swag, so shut it.  Also, the fact that Homer Laughlin is technically across the Ohio River in Newell, West Virginia is irrelevant, because the residents of East Liverpool could easily storm across the bridge at any time and overtake Newell to claim what is rightfully ours already. 

So to summarize, I kind of miss going back to East Liverpool when going home to see Mom and Dad.  If you ever get a chance to drive through, you should do it, because you'll see that it is okay.

1 comment:

  1. Jay,

    Good point about the pottery. I recently disposed of every race trophy I ever won - with one exception: my sweet Pottery Festival 2000 first place plate. It's in my office right now.